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A poll of doctors finds 76 percent say they would approve of the use of medical marijuana to treat pain in an older woman with advanced breast cancer.

In February the New England Journal of Medicine asked doctors whether they would approve of medical marijuana in the hypothetical case of a 68-year-old woman with breast cancer that had spread to the lungs and spine. The journal presented pro and con arguments. The woman, who lived in a state that has approved medical marijuana, was undergoing chemotherapy. She had low energy, minimal appetite and substantial pain. She took medication to reduce nausea, with minimal success. She took acetaminophen every eight hours, and sometimes took oxycodone at night.

This week’s edition of the journal includes the results of the poll. Seventy-six percent of the 1,446 physicians who responded said they would provide the woman with a prescription for medical marijuana.

Dr. J. Michael Bostwick of the Mayo Clinic, who wrote the “pro” side of the argument, said there are valid points to be made on both sides. “There are no 100 percents in medicine. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is something we should study more. Forgive the pun, but there’s probably some fire where there’s smoke, and we should investigate the medicinal use of marijuana or its components,” Bostwick told HealthDay.

He said he worries about cases in which a patient will visit a new doctor, who will provide a prescription for medical marijuana without knowing the patient.

Dr. Gary Reisfield of the University of Florida, who co-wrote the “con” side of the argument, said he is concerned about a patient with lung disease smoking marijuana, because it irritates the airways. He noted the smoke can also cause airway inflammation and symptoms of bronchitis, and reduces the lungs’ ability to fight infections.


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